Is TightVNC Really More Tight Than Other VNC Clients?

Ryan Dube 23-09-2011

tightvncWhen it comes to remotely connecting to a desktop PC or a server, most people quickly opt for installing a VNC server. It’s fast, easy to configure, and best of all it’s absolutely free. Once you’ve installed a VNC service on your target computer, you can essentially use any client you want in order to access that service if it is capable of using the VNC protocol.


In my somewhat controversial article on how to spy on your spouse with your computer, I mentioned using RealVNC for Windows How To Spy On Your Spouse With Your Computer Read More to do just that. Then there’s Chicken of the VNC How To Set Up & Use Chicken Of The VNC For Remote Access [Mac] If you've ever needed to get remote access for a computer, you've probably realised that some solutions are far superior than others. Even as far as VNC (Virtual Network Computing) clients go, there are a... Read More for Mac, or VNC access for Ubuntu Ubuntu Remote Desktop: Easy, Built-In, VNC Compatible Need to remotely connect to your Ubuntu PC? Use Ubuntu's remote desktop tools to access your PC from Linux, macOS, or Windows. Read More . If you search free software directories, you’ll find VNC clients large and small and everything in between. Recently, I came across TightVNC, another VNC client with a claim that it is distinct because it is “free, lightweight, fast and reliable“.

Testing The “Tight” In TightVNC

In order to put TightVNC to the test, I decided to formulate a baseline by running and measuring several other VNC clients before running TightVNC and comparing it to the same baseline. Now, this is by no means a highly-analytical, professional, end-to-end functionality or capacity test. All I want to know is how much memory the application uses while it is running, and how much bandwidth it eats up while communicating with the remote VNC server.

The first client I decided to test is the one that I currently use all the time, called UltraVNC. I really like UVNC – it is easy to run and configure, and fast to connect to my remote clients. I use it to manage our family web server as well as my random PCs throughout the house.

Running UltraVNC, I opened up the Resource Monitor and went straight to the memory area. As you can see, UVNC, which runs under the image name “vncviewer.exe”, takes up just under 5,000K of private memory space, with a total of just over 11,000 set aside for the app.



In terms of network utilization, during a fairly low-activity, non-use period of time when I leave the connected screen untouched for about 5 minutes, the network utilization of this connection eventually evened out to about 1,621 B/sec. So, now we have a baseline to compare all other VNC clients to – about 5,000K of memory space and just over 1,500 B/sec.

tightvnc viewer

Next up is RealVNC. This was actually the first VNC client I ever used, and it remains the VNC server app that I still use. Running the RealVNC client, the Resource Monitor showed nearly the same performance, only slightly better. About 4,520KB in private memory and about 10,284KB total.

tightvnc viewer


On the flip side, I noticed network bandwidth consumed by RealVNC was just slightly higher than UltraVNC at 1,887 B/sec, but not a whole lot higher. Since the bandwidth can fluctuate significantly from time to time – easily 200 B/sec at least – then for all intents and purposes these two apps perform nearly the same in every way.

tightvnc viewer

There is another free VNC client that you may or may not have heard about called TigerVNC.  TigerVNC is interesting because its creators say that they focused on performance and remote display functionality. We’ll get to the functionality in a bit, but first we need to complete our measurements for this third VNC client. Network Activity for this one appears to be significantly higher for this VNC client – almost five times higher than the last two.

compare tightvnc realvnc


As far as I could tell, I was doing everything the same way during the measurement – waiting a few minutes after leaving the screen idle before taking a measurement. Regardless, network usage appears to be quite a bit higher.

The memory consumption, however, appears to be right along the same lines as UltraVNC. So, whatever the programmers did to increase functionality and consume more network bandwidth, they did it without consuming any more memory than UltraVNC.

compare tightvnc realvnc

As far as added functionality, it’s true that you can see more features immediately available at the top left corner of the view screen. With one mouse click you can zoom, launch the windows menu, or utilize “Control-Alt” on the remote client. I couldn’t really tell whether the display quality was any better than the other two VNC clients, but if the network use is any indication, then it probably is.


compare tightvnc realvnc

Finally, we come down to the one VNC client that has made the claim to be the tighter VNC client – TightVNC.  The first thing you’ll notice when you launch TightVNC is that you can opt for a “low-bandwidth connection” before connecting to your VNC server.

Is TightVNC Really More Tight Than Other VNC Clients? tightvnc9

Looking at the network bandwidth under the “low-bandwidth” setting, you can see that the network consumption is still higher than UltraVNC or RealVNC – about 3 times higher. However, it does beat out TigerVNC in terms of bandwidth.

Is TightVNC Really More Tight Than Other VNC Clients? tightvnc10

In terms of memory use, TightVNC does indeed blow away the competition by a difference of approximately 2,000KB less of total reserved working space. Considering that it appears to be working pretty hard over the network to provide adequate functionality, the smaller footprint is pretty impressive.


So, there you have it folks. While TightVNC may not exactly live up to the hype, and in fact fails to achieve significant bandwidth improvements, it does indeed meet the claim that it is lightweight. For anyone concerned with the overall memory space active applications use up on your PC, then TightVNC will at least save you a little bit of space.

Have you used many VNC clients before? What’s your favorite client and why? Share your opinions in the comments section below!

Image credit: Anders Engelbøl

Related topics: Remote Access, Remote Desktop, VNC.

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  1. Adrian Stannard
    November 7, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Looks like a mix up between server and viewer definitions - these are fundamentally different. I was expecting to see tightvnc server against VNC control (the realvnc server)...

    • Adrian Stannard
      November 7, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Sorry - VNC Connect

  2. Steve
    May 6, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    Wouldn't higher bandwidth mean higher data throughput in which case the vnc client can update faster?

    • Ryan Dube
      May 6, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      Hi Steve - not sure what specific section you're referring to, but throughout the article I used the measure that I described in the introduction:

      "...and how much bandwidth it eats up while communicating with the remote VNC server."

  3. Robin
    January 20, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Surely a better test would be to view a video or something (maybe run a screensaver)? that way the network codecs get a proper workout. Your method of just leaving it to do nothing for five minutes only really measures the fixed overheads, not the efficiency of the way the various VNCs relay screen changes over the network.

  4. tsippo
    October 18, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Thank you for the article! It was indeed good reading with tests I understand and based on what I can make my own decision. I usually use that "ordinary" VNC client what is RealVNC despite its lack of ability to provide secure connection. I used few times also TightVNC but it has for me some kind heavyness. By heavyness I mean my feeling about speed and accuracy of transmission. I prefer still that "ordinary" one because for me is important mostly speed and feeling "being there" - being actually in real time on the remote desktop and clicking, doubleclicking, dragging, dropping, moving or doing whatever else LIVE, not like under water or in slow motion picture :)

  5. jasray
    September 23, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Yes, definitely much tighter VNC programs than any mentioned in this article.  I hope readers do more research if they plan on using VNC--rather shallow coverage.  No, I'm not going to give away all of the goodies--I'm not getting paid to research and share information.

    • Ryan Dube
      September 24, 2011 at 2:55 am

      First sentence is a little confusing - what do you mean by "definitely much tighter VNC programs" than any mentioned...  Are you saying TightVNC is tighter than most, or that you know of other, tighter VNC programs?

    • Patrick
      April 15, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Why would you bother to put this at all? "I'm not going to give away all the goodies." You basically said nothing.

    • Shaq
      December 8, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      No, I'm not going to give away all of the goodies--I'm not getting paid to research and share information.

      You didn't say anything useful. Just hope that people struggle and that you will not offer anything because you didn't get money ?????